ATLANTA -- The slayings of 28 young Atlanta blacks has brought Hollywood and sports stars, supersleuths and soothsayers, politicians, civil rights leaders, bounty hunters and vigilantes to Atlanta offering help -- much of it unwanted.
Twenty-three months of watching sobbing Atlanta mothers bury their children on the evening news has attracted both national and international attention to the bizzare slayings.
Atlanta residents and people around the world have become emotionally involved in the cases.
Georgia state Rep. Marvin Adams once held up a tiny pair of cowboy boots and told fellow lawmakers:
'The next pair of empty, muddy boots may belong to your child, to your grandchild or to your neighbor's child. This ruthless, vicious, roving maniac must be tracked down and stopped from committing this disgraceful and bloody act upon innocent children,' Adams said.
The slayings, and the media coverage they generated, attracted both the well-meaning and the self-serving to the spotlight.
One of the better-publicized incidents in the cases was staged by Roy Innis, the national director of the Congress of Racial Equality.
Innis stood before reporters on the steps of Atlanta's City Hall last April and claimed to have both a secret 'witness' and a photograph of the killer who had terrorized Atlanta's black neighborhoods. Innis said if the 100-member special police task force investigating the slayings failed to arrest his suspect within 72 hours, 'we'll make the collar ourselves.'
The 72 hours passed without incident, Innis left town and Public Safety Commissioner Lee P. Brown announced the CORE suspect was not a police suspect and had provided no new leads to investigators.
Almost daily, the well-known and unknown offer the public and the police a new theory.
At one point, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory claimed Atlanta's black children were being snatched and used as human guinea pigs for cancer research.
Atlanta police have both criticized and contributed to the 'circus atmosphere' surrounding the investigation.
Early in the probe, lawmen sought help from psychic Dorothy Allison. She breezed into the city and vowed none of her 'little angels' would be harmed while she was in town. She returned quietly to New Jersey several days later and another child's name was added to the growing list.
Another psychic -- Marlene Westler -- once rushed to the woods where volunteer searchers had found a skeleton and boldly announced she knew the identity of the remains.
Moments later, however, the medical examiner announced the skeleton belonged to a dog.
Atlanta police have received truckloads of mail about the unsolved slayings. 'The blessed mother appeared bfore me this morning,' a woman from Philadelphia wrote. 'She had a rope around her neck. I know it was a sign. I know whoever is murdering your children in Atlanta is a religious person and he is using a rope.'
Decatur minister Earl Lee Paulk once ran newspaper ads and appeared on television, pleading with the killer to surrender to him. Segregtionist Lester Maddox and civil rights activist Hosea Williams also urged the killer to surrender to them.
David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, offered a $1,400 reward.
Muhammad Ali upped the ante by $400,000, bringing the total reward to $500,000.
Fatigue-clad mercenaries from Mitch WerBell's Cobray School for Counter-Terrorists near Marietta spent several weekends searching for evidence, and a contingent of Guardian Angels -- the self-proclaimed citizen protectors of New York's streets and subways -- came to Atlanta to organize a youth force.
Residents of Atlanta's largest public housing complex decided to take matters into their own hands, arming themselves with baseball bats and other weapons. There were several angry confrontations with police who sought to discourage the neighborhood patrol.
There were sympathy marches and rallies, and the parents of the young Atlanta victims went on the lecture circuit, collecting thousands of dollars for the 'bereaved' families of the dead.
Wayne Williams, a 23-year-old Atlanta freelance photographer authorities questioned several times about the slayings, spent one weekend giving reporters odds on when he might be arrested.
Several days later, Williams evaded the detectives and reporters camped outside his home, launching a frantic police search that ended when Williams parked his car in front of the home of Public Safety Commissioner Lee P. Brown, apparently trying to make the police department look foolish.
The week of June 15th, Williams' attorney -- Mary Welcome -- went to federal court seeking a double-barrelled injunction against police officials and the news media to end what she called 'prejudicial publicity' about her client.
Williams and the others were still awaiting a ruling by U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans when he was arrested.